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Director Profile: Doug Sell (PCN Fall 2015) OCT 1 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Doug Sell, APG Director for Zone 2

Doug Sell lives in the Strathmore area. He was elected to a three-year term as an APG Director in 2013 representing Zone 2. He is currently APG’s Third Executive Member on the Board of Directors.

Pulse Crop News: Please tell us about your family and your farm.

Doug Sell: I started farming a year after high school in 1978, and have been happily farming ever since. The farm is located about 25 miles north of Strathmore, in the Rosebud river valley. The farm evolved from a dairy farm, to a mixed farm and only recently the cow herd was sold and it is now a grain farm operation. I married Gayle (Turnacliff) in 1984 and we have three adult children: Tyson, who works construction and is also a paramedic; Landon, who works in mass communication and lives in Australia with his new bride Ang, and both return to the family farm almost every fall for the harvest marathon; and Kasyn who is finishing a second degree at the University of Lethbridge in Education, to add to a Psychology degree. Gayle is a full-time Registered Nurse, as well as taking on too many farm jobs that are added to a full and busy schedule.

PCN: What has been your experience with growing pulse crops?

DS: Pulse crops have always been a part of the Sell farm rotation. When the dairy was still in operation, peas were added to the silage mix, and after the dairy was sold, peas for grain were the new norm. Faba beans were dabbled with for three years, but were not in the rotation this year. Lentils were added six years ago and seem to be a better fit for our operation than faba beans. We start any new crop with baby steps, until we have determined whether or not they are a fit, so our addition of lentils into our pulse rotation was started at 40 acres and has grown a bit each year until a full quarter is now in our rotation. I expect to grow more lentils and less peas in the coming years if present trends continue.

PCN: What percentage of your crop was made up of pulses this year?

DS: We have a four year four crop rotation with pulses and canola each making up about 25 per cent of our acreage each year, and alternating either hard wheat or soft wheat between the pulses and canola. Following a pulse crop we will seed hard red spring wheat the following season as the mineralization of the pulse stubble during the growing season adds nitrogen and seems to give a pretty consistent high protein wheat. This past season it was as high as 16 per cent. I would like to say it is always that high, but I can say with conviction it certainly improves the protein consistently. The overall “mellowness or tilth” of the soil is another benefit I see from having pulses in our rotation.

PCN: What tips or tricks have you learned growing pulses that you could share with new growers?

DS: Ask questions… there is no bad or dumb question, unless you consider the unasked one when you’ve kicked yourself in the shin because you never asked it. Take baby steps so you don’t bite off more than you can handle. A land roller is a must, and if lentils are going to be added a flex header is also, in my opinion, a must have piece of equipment. Lentils are a small bush plant that will have pods just above ground level, but they were our best netting crop last year, so the extra time and effort is a worthwhile investment.

PCN: What sparked your interest in APG?

DS: The biggest single reason I got involved in APG is friend/neighbor/partner Barry Grabo. He was an APG director for a good number of years and I found his insights always interesting, thought-provoking and pertinent to the production of pulse crops and what they can and do contribute to the business of agriculture.

PCN: APG directors sit on various committees. You are the Third Executive Member on the provincial Board, as well as a member of the Research and Extension committees. What attracted you to serve in these roles?

DS: My interest in both Research and Extension committees stems from the underutilization of pulse foods in North American diets. It is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? If there were more pulses on store shelves, and the health benefits were more publicly known, I feel that pulses would be included in more daily consumption. But producers are not going to grow them unless they contribute positively to our bottom line, so that is where research comes in. With the implementation of UPOV ’91, I fully expect that plant breeders will be able to do “new” business here in Canada that will improve our varieties and make them better net contributors to our bottom line. The job of Extension then is to make growers aware, and help new growers with as much information as possible so that when pulses are added to a farm rotation the chances of success are as high as possible. With the recent addition of a full time dietitian to the APG staff, I am really excited that the pieces to grow the pulse brand have been enhanced: Knowledge and awareness for the consumer to want to add pulses to their diets, Research and Extension to assist producers to stock the shelves for the consumer.

PCN: What is the biggest issue facing your farm this year?

DS: The biggest single issue facing our farm this year and last has been transportation. Getting grain into the system has been challenging. Pulse Canada and the other grain commissions have been instrumental in bringing national attention to this problem. Part of the solution has included reporting, recording and monitoring grain flow through the rail system. Progress has been made, but the pressure on both government and the railroad has to be maintained, and that takes money. Levy dollars are used to help with funding this ongoing initiative, and I feel is a very good investment.

PCN: What has been the biggest benefit of your involvement as a director?

DS: I start every day with the same basic goal, and that is to learn something new. We work in an industry that is constantly evolving and with the advent of social media the awareness of the consuming public to agriculture has also changed dramatically. If we are not telling our story about agriculture being sustainable, growing a healthy product, being part of a very safe food supply system for the consuming public, then there is a very vocal minority that will tell our story for us; and too often that story is not very accurate. So my involvement as director (now this will really sound like a sales pitch) has really been a learning cycle through which I have come to understand and appreciate the work that all commissions do for producers. So this “politics of farming” has been really interesting to me and I would encourage all producers to come out to the zone meetings where we try to share information that will help all producers to grow our industry.

Thank you, Doug. We are looking forward to continuing to benefit from your contributions to the Board.